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JV Boys Put League Opener In Win Column
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Taking a huge early lead, the Escalon JV basketball boys had to hold on at the end and did, winning their Trans-Valley League opener.

The squad hosted Ripon in the Friday, Jan. 4 contest and took a 66-61 win off the court.

"It was the best start to a game we've ever had since I've been coaching," said JV coach Nate Bartelink. "We hit five 3-pointers in the first quarter and we were up 23-1 at one point."

Knowing Ripon, however, the coach said he knew the Indians would not go away quietly.

"I knew they'd make their run and they did," he said.

Escalon was up 25-8 after one but just 37-31 at the half, as Ripon nearly doubled up the host JV Cougars 23-12 in the second period. The Indians closed the gap further with a slight scoring advantage in the third and trailed just 50-48 after three quarters.

Ripon had one player that poured in 35 points on the night, but the JV Cougars were able to withstand the offensive push from the visitors and take the win.

"This time we were able to close it out," Bartelink said, noting they have sometimes had difficulty early on holding a lead.

Marvin Lawrence paced the squad with his best game of the season, scoring 18 points including three treys in the first quarter. Kevin Gregorio added 11 points and nine rebounds, with 10 points each from Chapman Mello and Christian May.

"Kash Satnat also gave us some good minutes off the bench when we got into foul trouble," said Bartelink.

The league win came after a busy and tough preseason schedule for the JV boys, which included an appearance in their own Escalon 'Holiday Classic' Tournament between Christmas and New Year. The JV boys won one and lost two in their own event. It was staged for the first time and Bartelink said he anticipates it will become an annual event, as teams were pleased and the crowd numbers were good.

"I really want to thank all the parents that helped, either working the snack bar or the door or providing food for the hospitality room," Bartelink said. "Also the Lions Club for running the snack bar."

Escalon played Colusa in the opening round of the tournament on Thursday, Dec. 27.

"They are out of Chico and we lost a tough game, 45-42," explained Bartelink. "We had a 10-day layoff; it took us a while to get going."

Even so, the JV squad battled until the final buzzer against the Chico area team.

"They had a 14 point lead in the third, we cut it down to three, the guys were playing with a lot of heart, we just came up a little bit short."

Chapman Mello had 14 points in the loss, Adam Roberson chipped in seven. Escalon roared back with a 15-6 scoring edge in the fourth quarter, but couldn't quite make up the early deficit.

On Dec. 28, they took on Central Valley out of Ceres in the second round and beat them, 61-40.

"Jacob Gutierrez tied his career high, he had 25 points and he missed only one shot the whole game," noted Bartelink.

Brian Gregorio added 11 points and 10 rebounds, with nine points from Roberson.

That set the JV Cougars up against Merced in the consolation final on Saturday, Dec. 29 and they lost that contest, 64-35.

"They got us pretty good," admitted Bartelink. "They are very athletic, forced a lot of turnovers."

Down just 29-21 at the half, the JV boys couldn't keep pace with Merced over the third and fourth quarters, outscored 20-8 in the third quarter alone, to take the loss.

Gregorio put in 11 points in the loss, with six points apiece from Christian May and Mello.

There were eight teams in the tournament, said Bartelink, with Beyer defeating Colusa for the tournament championship honors. Atwater, Ceres, Central Valley, Johansen and Merced were the other schools participating, along with host Escalon.

"It was a very successful tournament, we got a lot of compliments," Bartelink said. "This was the first time we've done it and it was a big fundraiser for us."

In a pre-season game against Davis on Dec. 17 the JV boys put together a solid effort and won a 61-41 decision.

"It was the best game we've played all year," Bartelink said of the home contest.

They outscored Davis in every quarter, starting with an 18-9 advantage in the first and ending with an explosive 25-10 edge in the fourth quarter.

"We just played real unselfish, made the extra pass, the guys were hitting their shots," said Bartelink.

Gregorio paced the team with 17 points, one of four JV players in double figures on the night. Others were Mello with 12 points, Gutierrez with 11 and Roberson with 10.

The JV boys went 6-9 for their preseason campaign, playing a number of Division I and II schools along the way.

"I think our tough schedule has prepared us well," Bartelink said of getting ready for the Trans-valley League campaign. "Hopefully we can be right up there near the top and compete."